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The 2017 forecast for federal IT

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From cybersecurity to cloud technology, the IT landscape in 2016 did exactly what it's always done: moved rapidly forward -- often at a pace that federal agencies struggle to match.

If those agencies learned anything over the last year, it's that technology waits for no one -- bureaucracy, regulations and compliance standards included. With ever-increasing pressures around compliance, budgeting and resources (not to mention an election plagued by cyber threats), federal IT leaders now recognize there's catching up to do. In 2017, we can expect them to act accordingly.

Here are a few trends to watch for over the coming year:

Cybersecurity

For cybersecurity, 2016 proved to be the year of realization. Major hacks consistently made national and international news, with victims including the Democratic National Committee, the FBI, the IRS, and DHS -- not to mention multiple private-sector organizations, including Twitter and Netflix.

Amidst all of this, it became apparent that federal cyber strategies were not up to scratch. Lacking the appropriate defense resources, targeted agencies have been relegated to reactive measures, acting only after an attack has been identified. Unfortunately, as we've learned from the recent cyber attack on Yahoo, breaches are not always instantly identifiable, allowing more time for damage.

Haunted by these attacks, federal agencies will pursue increased cybersecurity budgets this year, in hopes of bolstering their defenses against would-be attackers. Meanwhile, for federal IT leaders, security no longer occupies a separate silo. It's top of mind and must be integrated throughout their entire technology strategy.

Creating clearer, more actionable cybersecurity strategies and architectures will allow agencies to take a more wholistic approach to securing data and defending against threats by enabling them to identify breaches earlier, thus reducing the impact of cyberthreats from the outset.

Cloud Technology

Hampered by regulatory and certification woes, federal agencies have struggled to adopt cloud technology, particularly in contrast to private sector organizations.

Until recently, for an agency to use cloud technology, their cloud service provider had to complete an extended Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program

certification process, often taking upwards of 18 months. Consequently, many agencies shied away from transitioning to cloud in any sort of large scale.

Fortunately, a new and accelerated FedRAMP certification process could encourage agencies to more widely embrace cloud in 2017. Through the accelerated process, cloud service providers can be FedRAMP certified in as little as three months. As such, we'll see more certified CSPs, thus providing more choices for agencies hoping to reduce costs and improve efficiencies through cloud technology.

Automation

Accustomed to paying utility bills and buying airline tickets online, American consumers increasingly expect their government to provide citizen services through digital platforms. But because of the additional staff and resources required, federal agencies have struggled to meet the demand.

Enter automation.

Transitioning to a digital government requires agencies to quickly and accurately deploy services. Automation will play a critical role in meeting citizen expectations -- without risking security and without spending large sums on staffing and resources.

Automation also yields cyber security benefits by helping agencies address threats that might otherwise go undetected. Effective cybersecurity, after all, relies first and foremost on detection, followed by isolation and remediation -- both of which are tasks usually left to humans.

Even the most skilled IT professionals, however, can make mistakes. Automated networks eliminate this problem by removing the risk of human error. Threats and suspicious trends can be identified and addressed immediately, without waiting on human eyes.

In short…

With an improved IT budget outlook and greater focus on cybersecurity, 2017 is the year for federal agencies to catch up -- not only to their private sector peers, but to the never-ending throng of attackers looking to capitalize on government vulnerabilities.

By exploring and investing in cybersecurity, cloud systems and automation, federal IT teams have significant opportunities to cut costs, improve efficiency, strengthen security and, ultimately, to better serve American citizens.

About the Author

Jason Parry is Force 3's vice president of client solutions.

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